We talked some about brothers in New York Islanders history recently -- lockout filler FTW! -- but a sponsored post on iconic sports families is a chance to go further in depth with one of those sets of siblings.
In hockey, and in all sports, I don't think you can do better than the Sutter brothers.
It's not just that there were six of them, it's that none of them were superstars who provided coattails for siblings who followed. The family's NHL experience started with Brian Sutter with the Blues (1977) and continued with Duane (Islanders, 1980) and Darryl (Blackhawks, 1980) before Brent (Islanders, 1981) and the twins also joined the fold.
It's a hockey cliche, sure, but their success was really built around work ethic. Some -- Brent, Brian, Ron -- were maybe a little more talented than others -- but each one forged an identity of being able to do "whatever it takes," "skate through a wall" for you, and every other coach's jargon you can think of.
As a hockey fan with a polygamist loyalty to both the Islanders and Blues, I always tell people I've rooted for every Sutter except Darryl (a career-long Blackhawk, before coaching the Sharks, Flames and Kings). Of course Duane and Brent won Cups with the Islanders, while Brian captained the Blues and Ron and Rich spent some time playing for their brother behind the bench in St. Louis.
But even disregarding their coaching and management careers (Darryl in several stops, Brian in St. Louis, Boston and Calgary, Duane in Florida, Brent in New Jersey and Calgary), their playing careers embodied all of the excellent stereotypes we still apply to hockey players: Down-home farm boys who just want to work hard and put in a solid day's work. No frills, no drama, no rehearsed goal celebrations -- just a lot of hard work on the ice.
Brian was the lunch-pail captain whose career was shortened by a shoulder injury. Darryl too moved behind the bench at an early age. Rich had the least talent of the six, while twin Ron was one of four Sutters who captained their NHL team.
And then there's Duane -- a part of the entire Islanders dynasty -- and Brent, who joined his brother on Long Island in time to share half the dynasty. Duane loved winning the first Cup like the rest of his Islanders teammates, but things reached a new level when he was able to share the spoils with his brother, a family experience that must be second to none.
As Duane says in "Dynasty: The Oral History of the New York Islanders, 1972-1984":
"Winning the first Stanley Cup in ‘80 was a huge thrill, and something I’ll never forget. But to win one with your brother, that’s even more special."
In 1983 in particular, Duane and Brent formed a dynamic line with the "third Sutter" Bob Bourne that helped the Islanders to their fourth and final (for now) Cup. Brent and Duane each had 21 points in 20 games that postseason, while Bourne had 29.
Both Islanders Sutters -- sorry, Ron was briefly the third nearly two decades later -- would move on to Darryl's Chicago Blackhawks before calling it a career. But among the six NHL brothers (and their sons, who are still working through the system), they were the only two to win the Stanley Cup as players.
And they did so as Islanders.
As Duane says in the book by Greg Prato mentioned above:
"When it was all said and done, 19 consecutive playoff series wins. That record will never, never, never be broken."
Indeed. We'll never see six brothers in any league again either.
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